Saturday, April 28, 2007

Be Anything You Want, Except Fake

Back in Week 15 I posted this great quote from Naomi Klein of No Logo and Fences and Windows fame:

In her book, Fences and Windows, Naomi Klein discusses those big multi-national companies who, with the help of a PR agency, decide that they “want to be your friend”. She describes those businesses which spend so much time and money trying to convince consumers that they really care about them while at the same time, behaving in a manner anything but! To use Klein’s words, do you have a “communications problem” or a “reality problem?”
Innovation, service and marketing are not about spin, they are about a genuine commitment to turning your business into a productive part of society.

This month Fast Company magazine has a great article on “authenticity” which really hammers home the point above - to resonate with your customers don’t spend energy on spin; rather spend it on creating genuine solutions to your customer’s problems. Or as they put it in the article “...the story a brand tells through its actions...”. Love it.


pro said...

I have found that there is an all-too-frequent tendency for organizations (especially large organizations) to believe their own spin! The people running the thing have spent so much time spinning a view (to the market, to the board, to the customer) that they end up being the ones that believe it!!

What systematic measures would you suggest an organization could implement to ensure that they maintain a clear an accurate view of the customers real problems and needs?

c0t0s0d0 said...

I loved this musing of yours quite a lot... time and time again, i want to believe the spin of corporates that they care about their customers ... most of whom say that their customers are there most important aspect - and time and time again they teach me that my trust was misplaced. I no longer believe that it is possible for large public corporates to keep it real [in terms of customers and the service they promise anyway]google has proved this to me personally - as has dell as has ebay as has ... and not just to me but to everyone i have known... i think it stems from two things:

* people in corporates can't keep it real, because they have to follow processes that are not "real to them"
* people often want good, but often put themselves in shaky situations (mortages, etc etc etc) and then they depend on their job, and they then do things out of "fear" most of the time.

i think its only possible for people [not companies] to keep it real - such as your local chemist (the individual who owns the business and runs the business).. this has been proved to me time and time again as well... he really does care, he really does call when he says he will, he really does deliver when he say he will and if he can't then he calls and lets you know anyway!

companies can't keep it real - only people can! companies can only claim they will try (and that will be good enough as that is the best possible) but that can only come when they are structured in a decentralised way and give individuals the power not only to resolve problems, but provide internal feedback to facilitate changing the issue that caused the issue in the first place.

Scott Hannan said...

Pro – to me this is all captured by CC Tung of OOCL who believes that “Say + Look + Do = Reputation”. I really cannot put it any better as it captures the fact that no one of these areas creates the overall impression you would want for your business, they all do. So what systems can you put in place to support these critical aspects?

All three come under the way that you and your employees behave towards prospects and customers. This starts with a clear vision and is repeatedly challenged and revised through a monthly meeting with everyone in your company (if possible). In my opinion, everything in a small business should be systematized. The person at your front desk or on your main telephone number should be acknowledging prospects in the same way. Their calls or enquiries should be directed in a consistent manner to ensure nothing is ever overlooked. I could go on the entire way through the process (in fact it never ends if you consider follow-up).

Over the next 12 weeks I am going to be posting on “systems” specifically. Bottom line question: how do you get your business running without you? So stay tuned for much greater detail.

Scott Hannan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott Hannan said...

c0t0s0d0 thanks for your comments, I agree wholeheartedly that the local chemist (who owns the business) is best positioned to treat you as you have always wanted. That is good news for you, but bad news for him/her because it means they always have to be there to create that consistent, friendly experience that you seek.

So how do you get that consistency and still get some time at the beach? Systems.

I consider systems critical, especially when a small business is trying to work out broader issues within the business. Having said that, I think processes, or rules, have a limited life span. When you first plant a sapling, you tie it to a stake to keep the trunk upright. When it gains strength you are free to remove the stake – too early and the tree may end up growing on a 45 degree angle, too late and you might constrain it’s growth. Policies and procedures are the same and should be constantly reviewed at monthly meetings to ensure they are not “too early” or “too late for the business. I think many large corporates no longer include the people who have this information, and that is a bigger issue than the processes themselves.